Planes: Fire & Rescue

Erik Estrada plays a police helicopter version of his CHiPs persona in a "CHoPs"; A police procedural beloved by the Smokejumpers.

A spin-off of the wildly popular Cars franchise and a sequel to Planes; Planes: Fire and Rescue uses the same adorably humanized machines of transport to tell the story of Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook). Dusty is a huge air racing star, having flown around the world faster than another plane. Every flight is the flight of his life; Dusty lives for speed! That is the until the day his gear box is broken and without replacement to be found, Dusty can longer achieve the speeds that made him famous.

As one could expect, Dusty takes the news badly and recklessly attempts his old speeds during a solo night flight, causing a fire that results in the closure of the town’s airport. Realizing he may never race again and feeling guilty, Dusty joins a fire and rescue squad lead by Blade Ranger (Ed Harris) and his team: Lil' Dipper (Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (Dale Dye) and an adorably daring group of all-terrain vehicles known as “The Smokejumpers” (voices of Regina King, Corri English, Bryan Callen, Danny Pardo, and Matt Jones). Dusty is hoping for redemption and second act to his racing career, but he learns so much more.

The film clocks in at only 84 minutes, but feels like a rather bloated two hours. There is a heavy reliance on interpersonal drama mixed with a surprising lack fun and jokes. For a film about planes (featuring cars and trains) and co-starring fire, there a distinct lack of thrill. Wonderfully, there are a good amount of female voiced transports. However, most of the lines belong to Lil’ Dipper who, when she isn’t putting out fires (awesome!), she's very, very creepily pushing herself on to Dusty.

There is also the puzzling, distracting, and completely unnecessary choice of making Windlifter into a Noble Savage Native American stereotype. Windlifter wears a white stripe of paint across his face and knows things about the fire before anyone else. Windlifter tells perplexing, rambling stories about Coyote and how he discovered fire, while the other characters stare at him confused and then laugh.

With the high quality of scripts and charm in animated films and films for children recently released by Disney (Wreck It Ralph, Maleficent, and Frozen) the disappointment that is P:F&R is an astoundingly underwhelming offer. Perhaps this franchise should be grounded.

Maria Jackson
Review by Maria Jackson
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